The eyes are the only part of the body where a doctor can look in and see veins, arteries, and a nerve. New technology is allowing the tracking of more diseases through the eyes. Alzheimer’s disease is one that researchers are looking to ophthalmic technology for help in diagnosis.
Researchers have recently discovered that Alzheimer’s disease can be tracked by the eye. The retina is an extension of the brain and changes in it can indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s allowing for early diagnosis and a method of monitoring the progression of the disease. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have differences in retinal blood flow and nerve fiber layer thickness compared to those that do not have the disease. A patient with Alzheimer’s has thinner retinal veins, slower blood flow, and thinner nerve fiber layer. The studies also showed that a type of deposits in the retina known as “drusen” can be associated with deposit formation in the brain and, therefore, become an easily identifiable marker for detection and monitoring the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Technology that is currently being used to detect and monitor ophthalmic diseases like retinal detachments, macular degeneration, and glaucoma are also capable of monitoring other deposit-forming diseases. In fact, a new retinal scanner, the Optomap, has the inclusion of autofluorescence and allows the assessment of retinal pigment epithelial changes. This newer technology may prove to be an invaluable tool for monitoring metabolic problems and cell atrophy. Much more research needs to be completed before routine use of this technology will be used for Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but there is hope for the future.